The treatment of venereal disease was one of the main functions of the medical profession from the Middle Ages until the adoption of antibiotics in the late 1940s greatly reduced their incidence and seriousness. It was an uphill battle: although they had some success with mercury, there was little that was truly effective against infections like syphilis and gonorrhoea. In … Read more
In the days before the NHS, when physicians charged patients for their services, there was an unspoken agreement that members of the medical profession would waive their fees when the patient was a colleague or a member of their family. In countries with no national health service this convention persisted for longer: in the late 20th century the American … Read more
[with apologies to Tom Lehrer]
Articles in early scientific journals are often little more than a series of anecdotes, without experimental controls or any attempt to reach sound conclusions through quantitative means. This flaw is particularly apparent in articles on medical subjects, where a successful ‘cure’ of a patient is often accepted at face value, without any attempt to establish … Read more
He was born in Holland, though of German parents, of the name of Dies, which the Doctor has translated into the English synonym of Day, under which name … Read more
Here’s a report of a criminal trial at the Old Bailey from a little over a century ago which truly made me grateful for modern medicine – and in particular for the modern regulation of the profession. In this case a doctor without any qualifications escaped with a slap on the wrist, despite having killed a patient.
On March 3… Read more
The output of the French baroque composer Marin Marais contains an oddity: a musical depiction of a surgical operation. A piece from the fifth book of his Pieces de Viole is entitled Le Tableau de l’Opération de la Taille (Portrait of an Abdominal Operation – you can listen to it here), and is an attempt to convey the … Read more
We are not quite satisfied that the subjoined paragraph, taken from a weekly London paper, contains a correct account of Dr. Elliotson’s Phrenological Lecture on the cranium of De … Read more
In 1875 the British Medical Journal had some fun digging around in the archives:
BARBAROUS PUNISHMENT: A SURGEON’S OCCUPATION. – 1720, March 29th. On Wednesday, Thomas Hayes, formerly the commander of a merchantman, stood in the pillory at Charing Cross, for the hour of twelve to one, when a surgeon, attended by the prison officers, got upon the pillory, when … Read more
In the nineteenth century the medical profession had something of an image problem. The archetype of the pompous or unscrupulous doctor was well established, and authors like Charles Dickens had much fun sending them up with satirical depictions which were painfully close to the mark. In The Pickwick Papers, the young doctor Bob Sawyer uses a number of underhand … Read more
Rhinoplasty is one of the oldest surgical operations, known to have been practised by the Indian surgeon Sushruta in the 1st millennium BC, and with great sophistication in the 17th century by the Italian physician Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who created new noses from the muscles of the upper arm.
This case reported in the 1830s in The New … Read more